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Issue 1084

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Feature

BRIGHT SPARKS AND HIGH LIGHTS.

Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks Jordin Sparks Jordin Sparks Winning American Idol 2007 Jordin Sparks

Long gone are the days when you could show up to a record label's A&R office armed only with your voice and a dream and walk away with a record deal.

In the ever-decreasing world that is the music business, tangible commodities such as downloads, my space hits, independent sound scan monitored CD sales and the like have taken the spontaneity and magic out of the tuned in A&R man's vision and replaced it with the practical reality of the accountant's unsympathetic eye.

However, for all its criticisms and hype, probably the only remaining arena where a voice and a dream can land you a major record deal, irrespective of your internet profile, physical appearance and marketing savvy is American Idol. Say what you will about Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell, they are, almost single handedly, keeping the old school notion of the music business alive.

The latest beneficiary of their (and the voting US public's) discerning ears and Cowell's scathing tongue is seventeen year old Arizona native Jordin Sparks. The daughter of former American football star, Phillipi Sparks (NY Giants & Dallas Cowboys), Jordin's subsequent self titled debut album, on Sony BMG, is musically as harmless and across the board and you would imagine from a teenage AI winner. Like a presidential political campaign, careful attention has been made not to alienate any of her potentially huge audience. Thus, what we have is a rather saccharine compilation of pop ditties with smatterings of R&B thrown in for good measure that is aimed squarely at middle class kids in shopping malls in middle America.

However, Jordin, an upbeat loquacious teen, brushes my methodical marketing conspiracy theories aside.

"My taste in music is really diverse so that's reflected in the album" she says, "Basically, they (the record label) played me a whole bunch of songs and I just picked the ones I liked the most. It's as simple as that."

But does she feel a special connection to any of the songs?

"I do. "Permanent Monday" which is the big ballad is very special as is "God Loves Ugly". I really relate to that song because being in the music business there is this pressure to look a certain way. You know, the abs the big boobs, be thin be this be that and that's not me. I'm not saying I'm ugly but I'm saying that I really believe that there's someone to love for everyone. If we all looked and sounded the same how boring would this world be?"

Indeed it is testament to AI's basic ethic of talent trumping looks that has allowed Jordin to be presented and accepted by the American public in her natural full figured state, before the marketing. Mannequin making department got their hands on her.That's not to say she doesn't feel the pressure to produce the goods now.

"Just look at all the successes that have come out of American Idol" she says. "I mean how do you compete with that? It's very daunting to follow in their footsteps. I mean they've all done well but I would say Carrie Underwood, winning grammy's, headlining her own tour, is the path I would love to emulate."

Unlike, another Idol winner, Fantasia, Jordin's life thus far has not been one of struggle and hardship. Born into relative affluence, the most emotionally challenging aspects of her life thus far have been mild compared to many.

"Once we had a litter of puppies" she recalls. "They were 7 weeks old and we let them outside one night thinking they would be okay. Somehow they escaped the pen where we had them and fell into the swimming pool. They all drowned. I woke up the next morning looking for them. When I saw them in the pool, I jumped in with all my clothes on. It was very traumatic."

Raised in a strict church going household with two devoted parents, Sparks presents the kind of All American innocence prime time TV devours. Of her album's lyrical content she says.

"I haven't really done the boyfriend thing or experienced anything sexual so I couldn't really sing about that, so when I sing about missing people I think back to when my dad was on the road a lot when I was younger and I really missed him or I miss being away from my family so much now."

I ask Jordin' who her dream dinner party guests would comprise and one answer would be certain to give some of her church going family members a bit of a shock.

"I would love to have Steven Tyler from Aerosmith there. I've got a bit of a crush on him(!) and I just love his music and the way he sings so that would be cool. Maybe we could do a duet sometime.

I'd also love to have Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion there. They've influenced me so much. But it might turn in to battle of the divas so they would have to sit at opposite ends of the table. Who else? Christina Aguilara and her husband and baby would have to come. She's another person I really love. At first I thought I'd love to do a duet with her but she'd blow me away."

One person, Jordin did duet with is current US golden child Chris Brown on her current, more urban sounding single "No Air".

"I'm in New York promoting it now actually. It's doing really well. It sounds crazy but one thing I never realized was exactly how much singing I would be doing. It's day in day out. I'm not used to that intensity. Before I would sing at the church, talent shows but nothing like now. I guess I should be happy that people want to hear me so much!"
Words JEFF LOREZ

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